Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Richard Bowman, July 8, 1998. Interview K-0513. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Bowman's young son absorbed other's prejudices during the 1965 riot

News coverage of the 1965 Watts riot was so critical of local black residents that Bowman's four-year-old son was convinced that all blacks would have to be killed before the violence stopped. He had to explain their racial identity to his son and point out how local military units also contributed to the violence. He suspects that neighbors in their integrated neighborhood had started the rumors that led his son to that opinion.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Richard Bowman, July 8, 1998. Interview K-0513. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

But, speaking of the first riot-we lived in an integrated neighborhood and my son that's the Deputy Sheriff now he was just a toddler and this is the first time that he realized-I mean I realized that he didn't know what color he was, because we had the military trucks and army trucks patrolling the city and everything-I know one lady didn't stop for a barricade not too far from where I live and they had machine guns at that intersection of Slauson and Crenshaw [KN: this is 1992?] No, this is the first riot-Yeah, they had machine guns there-and this lady didn't stop for some reason or another and the National Guard just sprayed to car with machine guns and cut her legs off up to her knees -because she was sitting in the car and they just went right through.
Oh, you're kidding.
Anyway, the trucks patrolled the neighborhood daily and my son was about four years old came up to me and said uh, Dad they should kill all the Negroes-that's what my son said and I asked him why and he said because they burning the city and that's when I asked him I said do you realize what you're-that's the first time I realized that I needed to talk to him and let him know that he was a Negro, that he was black-becuase he didn't realize at that time that he was black.-but, he had heard it on the radio and heard the neighbors talking because we lived in a mixed neighborhood and he had probably heard those comments coming from someone in the neighborhood.